Silence could well be the most feared quantity of the modern world
Modern culture seeks to extinguish mystery
Just listening to Anáil is a radical experience, since focusing on silence in a world that increasingly repudiates that possibility is a profoundly engaging endeavour.
Of course, the tracks do not contain silence, since there is no such earthly thing. You need headphones, not so much to hear as to leave the constructed world you live in every day.
The human ear is no more able to hear silence than the mind can conceive of nothingness. But the pursuit of silence is a vital means of accessing the mysteriousness of being here at all. Modern culture strives to extinguish that mysteriousness with constructs of thoughts and words that affect a semblance of a total reality. When this fails to satisfy – which it must – the human being becomes vulnerable to despair. The antidote offered by “silence” is the invitation to become aware of the depths of possibility from which we’ve emerged and wait to return.
Talk is cheap
Our culture nudges us to see and hear words as the key to all understanding. Constantly, we “explain” things or listen to “explanations”. Words appear to be all we have, so we use them assiduously and become fixated on what they seem to contain of our intuitions.
In the years before his death seven years ago, I became friendly with Peter Kavanagh, younger brother of Patrick, whose poems continue to bear witness to the created universe and the Presence he observed in everyday things. Both men understood the limits of words. The important thing about a poem, Patrick would say, is “the Flash”.
By this he meant the intrusion of the exceptional, the unexpected, the Other. I once asked Peter about the relationship between the words and the poem’s immanent content. “The words,” he replied, “are the least important part. In a poem, the words burn up in a tremendous thread of something unusual.”
A paradox, then: we need the words, however limited, to make possible the spaces between them – but the words alone always come to nothing. At best, they ignite in the listener, reader, a sense of recognition, which becomes stronger when the silence re-enters.
Secretly, we seek the fewest and least inadequate words, to bring the minimum of clutter to our thoughts. Really, there is no communication except the mutual exchanging of experience. We understand only what we already know. The words help, but are not the thing.